With these solutions, we will bring about the change in course, a great 21st century transition. If we get it right, we have an extraordinary future. If we get it wrong, we face an irreversible disruption that could set humanity back centuries. A drastic change is needed in the first half of that 21st century to set the stage for extraordinary events in the rest of the century.
Sorry to ask again, but I think the question is still unsolved. My question is the word "irreversible", which is grammatically used to modify "disruption". But I don't see the disruption that is irreversible. What is irreversible? Or what is the best word to paraphrase the word in this context. I am trying to figure out how this linguistic metaphor works, as I think the sentence is based on the conceptual metaphor "human history is a journey".
Thank you in advance.
I didn't give you more context because I don't want to scare people away. If you want, I can post more context.
Probably, yes. I'm thinking of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Certainly, they were a disruption. The word "irreversible" doesn't seem to apply. But the results of the disruption, the loss of civil liberty, the distrust among America's citizens, the calamitous wars, you could say that these sad changes are "irreversible"--you might be wrong, but the sentence would make sense.
There are three actions in the sentence: 1. irreversible (from reverse), 2. disruption (from disrupt), and 3. set back. Among the three actions, two （2 and 3）are based on the conceptual metaphor HUMAN DEVELOPMENT IS A JOURNEY。 Disruption must be based on this metaphor, as what is disrupted is the process of history and set back must also be based on this metaphor, as when humanity is set back for centuries, you go back to the Dark Ages, or going back along the historic line. But the "irreversible" (1) seems not based on this grand metaphor, as it cannot be linked with this historic time line. It is more like going back from bad to good. In other words, you want what you have to be reversed, but you can't, which is totally different from "set back", as in the case of set back, you don't want to go back to the Dark Ages. Could you comment on my above observation?
I thank you for your insight. When you only need to give the general meaning of a sentence, it is not hard. But when non-native speakers ask you about the meaning of every word in the sentence, you cannot say that the meaning of a certain word has been mingled into the whole sentence. That is why sometimes I am crazy about the subtle meaning of words. Thanks again.
Last edited by ian2; 28-Dec-2007 at 20:11.
Ian, the Anglos on this forum are educated people, and we love our language. But don't overestimate us. We're human. We don't always think deeply about the nuances of our language. We are often careless and thoughtless in the ways we express ourselves. This is true of almost everyone who speaks English. Sometimes we don't choose our words carefully enough, and what we say or write doesn't always make perfect sense.
It's worthwhile to try to make sense of everything you see and hear, don't expect us to be better than we are.